Recently I was offered coffee. I replied, “No.” My dislike for coffee is largely because my father despised it. I imitated his preferences and sneered at the stuff. I internalized the message that coffee is distasteful.
This illustrates an important parenting principal. Children imitate and eventually accept as normal the behavior, opinions and beliefs of their parents—healthy and unhealthy, good and bad, right and wrong.
If a child hates the action or its consequences, or even if it caused pain, they do it, because it’s comfortable and familiar. For them no other way to maintain emotional comfort and balance exists.
So how do you get your child from infancy to adulthood with healthy values, beliefs and behaviors without handing down the unhealthy ones? The simple answer is, “Teach them.” The complex answer is, “It’s not that simple.”
To pass your values be parents, live what you say and teach, and be authentic and honest.
Resist the temptation to do one thing when your child is present and something different when they’re not.
Are you watching what you value?
Take control of the media in your home. Clearly define what is acceptable and unacceptable concerning sex, violence, swearing and other moral issues.
Discuss your personal values and viewing limits with your children as they grow older. Discuss and empower them to set their own boundaries for media viewing even when you are absent.
- Review video games and movies. For movies, try www.kids-in-mind.com. For video games and television, check out www.parentfurther.com and click on video games in the left sidebar.
- Be willing to turn off anything or walk out of a theater if it is unacceptable.
You’re the most influential role model
As our children grew from innocent infants into perplexing teenagers, we’ve watched this principle of parenting happen.
Our children have become the best and worst parts of us.
That’s the curse, and the joy, of parenting. It reveals our weaknesses and our strengths. It sheds light on inconsistencies and areas in which we need to grow.
Grow with your kids
It’s never too late to grow as a parent. I know, because I was seven when I went to live with my adopted parents. I learned about more than coffee from my adopted father. I learned to be responsible, to pray, to attend church and to trust God in difficult situations.
I tried to run away from what they taught me, but because they lived what they taught, it was a short run. I believed them.
You’re the only parent your child knows. You are the most influential role model they will observe. If something is preventing you from being that role model, change it.
It takes strength and wisdom to be the father or mother your child needs. But, it’s worth it. You’ll be a better person, you’ll have a better relationship with your children and you’ll know you passed your values.